Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Reflections on Joyce, my Queen for a Day: March 26,2017…by Robert M. Katzman

 

On Sunday, March 26th, 2017 Joy and I married in a formal Jewish ceremony for the first time among very close friends and relatives from many places and who arrived there on short notice.

The place, a beautiful and very large home was offered to us to do this by a lifelong friend of Joy’s, our Rabbi demonstrated the real meaning of tzedakah and made everything we hoped to achieve that day possible and people who came there last night had in many cases never met each other before. Our friends don’t frequently meet our families, or much of them. Not this time.

The many small children there who were sometimes strangers to each other immediately became a miniature mob tearing around the big house. If you think about that, it is amazing how fast that happened. I guess you have to grow up to become hesitant about getting to know someone. Very cool, children.

Our four adult children, Lisa, David, Rachel and Sarah, worked together and constantly, without instructions or supervision to make the day be all they wanted it to be for a woman they treasure. A gift in and of itself.

If warm feelings were gold, Fort Knox would have been a nugget compared to what we felt among all of them.

But this party was a celebration of Joy and our life together and it was a beautiful thing.

After a while, hopefully it will be clearer to people what I was attempting to do for an incredible woman I’ve loved for 42 years who knew she was dying.

I wanted her to be a Queen for a day, all eyes on her and she was.  No one can ever take that away from her.

Time is running short for her, the drugs will increase and then she will be lost to me.

I know I will not be able to bear it. I know that is coming. A bottomless abyss of loneliness. The price I will pay for loving someone for so long through levels of hell and happiness.

I would pay it over and over and over to be able to keep her with me.

When life reaches such a level of intensity, feelings and ideas flow and I decided to write them down:

 

Life, to me, is not just how successful we can (or can’t) make it in business or other aspirations.

Its who we befriend along the way, and remain that way with them regardless of the distance or the years passing, but also how we decide to leave our own lives life when we have some clue about when that end is coming.

Friendship?

Friendship is being there–right now–no matter what, when you are needed, no questions asked and no matter how far.

Friendship is a warm hand out to you in the cold ocean of life when you’re drowning in pain, in regret, in sorrow.

Friendship is another side of love between agreeable souls and I have never been confused about that.

Class?

Class is not what you have, where you live or whom you were born to.

To me, class is how you treat other people in pain, in suffering or who need a moment of your time, especially when no one else it looking, or will ever know about it.

If I have or can give someone even just a moment of relief from what misery life has dealt them, maybe that’s God momentarily passing through me.

Who knows? But I sure like that idea.

What we say, how we say it, who we say it to, the apologies we make for any pain we may have caused someone else and who we tell we love before they or me dying is the way I want to end my life.

So no one ever wishes they heard the words they wished they could have heard from me while I was still here.

Lives pass, but the words, the bad ones, the good words, remain.

Try and leave the good words behind you.

 

The wedding is over. The guests are gone. All the paper and food and things are cleaned up, thrown out or put away. Pictures and film remain and Joy was watching them on her phone in bed last night and this morning.

I combined my daughters’ various kinds of exotic coffees into one blend and made some for Joy. Norwegian girls need their coffee. She drank a hot cup of it in her mother Helen’s white cup with the flag of Norway printed upon it, without complaint. She will use no other cup.

I obey her wishes.

Then a clear glass plate filled with a few almonds, some orange yogurt and a leftover wedding brownie for breakfast–in bed.

Every ten minutes she pushes a little green button on a little black machine filled with a narcotic to hold back the pain coursing through her.  In between that time, sometimes I wash dishes, wash clothes or look at the birds outside flying to the bird feeders I put up for her to watch when she came home from the hospital.

In the kitchen, where she slowly walks toward the table with her aluminum walker, we sit together and watch Cardinals and sparrows, rabbits and squirrels, sometimes a hawk, sometimes Morning Doves–always in couples, circle around each other in their endless quest for food.

The big brick fireplace I built for her while she was gone for so long, so that we could burn the never-ending wood supply which Wisconsin offers the alert scavenger, so when she returned to me from the hospital, we could watch the bright flames climb high into the night sky, together, listening to the logs crackle, inhaling the lovely fragrance of burning hardwood and fallen branches, and witness the tiny uncontrollable explosions of hot sparks living, racing high and then dying, in seconds.

But Joy can only watch that big red brick fireplace from a window now, and often, it sits silent. I don’t want to watch a roaring fire without her sitting next to me on our ancient cedar swing.

In the ten minutes between when she is able to push that little green button for some more relief, sometimes I hold her hand.

Sometimes I listen to her breathing in the darkness.

Sometimes we just sit in the morning light and look at each other.

We know whatever there is to know that has happened between us.

Time grows short and we will be waiting for whatever comes, whenever it comes, together.

I sure love you, Norwegian girl.

Damn it.

(Joyce Esther Bishop Katzman died at 5 PM, Mother’s Day, with her children around her, on May 14, 2017, exactly 7 weeks after our March 26th traditional Jewish wedding, which we planned to do for decades. My father, Israel, always told me:

“Plan your work, then work your plan”

Yes sir, Dad, that we did.

 

(Note: This story/poem was inspired by a letter I was writing to Bill Skeens, as it has happened to me before in our past. 

Bill and his lovely wife Sue Ellen were at the wedding on Sunday. But before all this life we’ve lived, he was the first employee I hired to work for me at Bob’s Newsstand in Hyde Park in January 1967 when I was 16 and he was 10, or half a century ago as of today.

He patiently taught me to be a boss, and has weaved his way through my life, always encouraging me when my aspirations went south, while becoming very successful himself building The Prairie Baking Company.

But Bill, you have become a sometimes Muse periodically in my life, whether you realize that or not, and which can’t be learned at the University of Anywhere. Credit should be given when credit is due, as my life requires.

Billy Skeens…thanks)

 

Comments below.

Questions?

Write to: robertmkatzman@gmail.com

 

11 Comments »

Comment by Patricia Favia

March 27, 2017 @ 1:08 pm

Bob,I know we are different religions. As a cradle Catholic I do not believe it ends. Actually I will be going to Fatima for the 100th anniversary of Out lady of Fatima. On my knees I will pray for your family. My heart is breaking for both of you and your children.
Please let us know how things are going and tell your wife God is holding her in the Palm of HIs Hand tell her you love her a million so that she can say she loves you more than that. Empathy and prayers. Pat

Comment by Brad Dechter

March 27, 2017 @ 1:54 pm

My heart is with you in both your joy and sadness.
Love you Bob and sorry you both have to bare the pain of Joy’s illness.
Brad

Comment by Joel Raven

March 27, 2017 @ 3:17 pm

Bob,

My heart goes out to you, Joy and your family. Having lost my both my mother and mother-in-law over the last two years, I’ve come to appreciate what we no longer have, and the importance of being there for your loved ones, to help them through it. Sadly, but graciously, they try to help us even throughout their suffering, which are not the best of memories.

You are a mensch, and always have been. You and Joy have been lucky to have each other for the many years you have shared. I wish you strength, and the warmth of the good memories. Your moving words are impactful, as your lives together have been.

Mazel Tov on your nuptials.

Comment by Don Larson

March 27, 2017 @ 3:22 pm

Bob,

Bob,

Truly, you know how to transmit your feelings at this point in life when time with her becomes so precious.

I’m going to post this article today because we humans need to understand what true love is, when love means the most between two people, how the heart prepares to retain that love through the remaining time together.

Your long time friend,

Don

Comment by Charlie Newman

March 27, 2017 @ 3:58 pm

Beautifully written, as always.
As for the reality of life . . . . . .
Prayers rise like smoke, old Friend.

Comment by Jim Payne

March 27, 2017 @ 7:59 pm

Your sensitive tribute to your marriage of love with Joy is vividly beautiful and painfully sad. You bring us into the scene of you and Joy together, waiting as you look ahead to a horizon not yet seen that will change your lives forever. You know you have today and will have tomorrow. You will find courage to look to your horizon. Bob, you and Joy have each other more than ever. It is a blessing to know our endings in life. You are with each other. Thank you for sharing your lives with us.

Comment by B.

March 28, 2017 @ 9:24 am

i’m sure glad for that day, i’m sure glad for my time with you, I too am blessed in that way…love you both to pieces! b.

Comment by Elaine

March 28, 2017 @ 5:15 pm

I feel your grief and sadness, Bob… most of all, I feel your friendship and love for Joy. Thank you for loving my darling sister with all of your might, with all of your heart…with all of your soul. You’ve always allowed it to show, and that’s the best part! And without a doubt, Joy always KNEW you loved her! I pray for yours & Joy’s and your loving family’s comfort during this transition of life. There’s a castle awaiting your Heavenly Queen, for sure!
Hugs n love to you all (through the tears).
E

Comment by Paul Eisenbacher

March 28, 2017 @ 6:17 pm

Bob
What a treasured gift of love you have for your beautiful bride. There are no other words to express that
Love, you used them all. My love and friendship are with
You. Paul

Comment by Rose

March 28, 2017 @ 8:05 pm

Bob this is my favorite piece of yours that I have read. You speak straight from the heart. Prayers for you both.

Comment by Anara

March 29, 2017 @ 8:00 am

Bob, your love for Joy shines through, as it does every time you write of her. She will pass on but your love will endure. May your heart ease as her pain eases.

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